Kansas Votes to Protect the Right to Have an Abortion in the State Constitution!
Kansans secured a huge win for abortion rights in the US on Tuesday night when they voted to continue to protect abortion in the state constitution.
The race was called by a host of US groups like NBC News, the New York Times, and Decision Desk HQ.
The move will be seen as huge a loss for the anti-abortion movement and a major win for abortion rights advocates across America, who will see the result as a bellwether for popular opinion.
Kansas, which is very conservative and usually votes Republican, is the first US state to hold a vote on abortion rights since the US Supreme Court ruled in late June that abortion protections in the Constitution no longer apply.
As one of the few states in the Midwest where abortion is still legal, the state will remain a haven for women who want to have one. Since June, a lot of other states have taken steps to make abortion mostly illegal.
The Kansas state senator Dinah Sikes, a Democrat, cried as the vote came in, and turned to her friends and colleagues, showing them goosebumps on her arm.
“It’s just amazing. It’s breathtaking that women’s voices were heard and we care about women’s health,” she told the Guardian, after admitting she had thought the vote would be close. “But we were close in a lot of rural areas and that really made the difference – I’m just so grateful,” she said.
With most of the votes counted, the “No” campaign, which stood up for abortion rights, had a strong lead in the referendum with 62 percent of the vote. Campaign finance records show that the Catholic church spent more than $3 million trying to get rid of abortion rights in Kansas. This means they lost millions of dollars.
Tuesday, a lot of Kansans went to the polls to vote in a referendum called for by the Kansas Republican legislature. The referendum was criticized for being misleading, full of false information, and trying to keep people from voting.
Republicans tried to get a referendum called “Kansas No State Constitutional Right to Abortion” on the 2020 ballot but failed. So they changed their strategy and called this amendment “Value Them Both.”
The vote was set for August, which is usually a slow month for voters, especially independents and Democrats, and the wording on the ballot was criticized for being confusing.
“The ballot mentions a state constitutional right to abortion funding in Kansas, but that funding has never really been on the table,” Mary Ziegler, a US abortion law expert from the University of California, Davis told the Guardian on Monday.
Kansans for Life, one of the main backers for a “yes” vote, told church congregants on 27 July that removing protections for abortion in Kansas would prevent late-term abortions, lack of parental consent, and taxpayer funding for abortion, despite none of these being the law in Kansas. Abortions in Kansas are limited to 22 weeks in the cases of life-threatening or severely compromised physical complications.
In a state where anti-abortion activists killed abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009, it was a tense and nasty campaign. Churches were burned down and yard signs were stolen.
But on Tuesday night, there was a lot of joy at a watch party in Kansas City for the winning “No” side. “We’re free!” shouted Mafutari Oneal, 56, who was working behind the bar when the vote was called and a rush of drink orders came in.
“I don’t want no government telling me what to do. I’m so happy,” she said.
In a speech just after victory was sealed, Rachel Sweet, the campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, said the win had come against all the odds.
“We knew it was stacked against us from the moment we started but we did not despair – we did it, and these numbers speak for themselves,” Sweet said.
“We knocked on tens of thousands of doors and got hundreds of thousands of phone calls… We fixed the wrong information that cost millions of dollars,” she said. “We won’t stand for strict abortion bans in our state.”
Ashley All, who was the spokesperson for KCF and helped lead the “No” campaign with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, told the Guardian that the key to getting people to the polls in Kansas was to not see abortion as a partisan issue.
“We demonstrated Kansas’ free state roots,” she said. “It will be interesting for other states to watch this and see this is not a partisan issue. Everyone from Republicans, to unaffiliated voters to hardcore libertarians came out to say: ‘No, we don’t want the government involved in what we do with our bodies,” she said.